In our collection of letters from African journalists, Ghanaian author Elizabeth Ohene appears to be like on the fraught relationship between Ghana and Nigeria, which underlies the present tensions over the closure of some Nigerian-owned outlets in Ghana.
We see them as too loud, and abrasive and chaotic and we consider they assume they’ll outsmart everyone, particularly Ghanaians.
They assume we’re too submissive, not very good, all the time punching above our weight and nothing upsets them greater than Ghana defeating Nigeria, in something.
The Ghana-Nigeria rivalry has been round for so long as each international locations have existed.
Once I was a baby, there was a Nigerian in each city and village in Ghana.
I went to highschool with them and there was the Nigerian girl – “Mami Alata” they had been known as – who bought every little thing and you may wake her up in the midst of the evening to purchase three cubes of sugar.
The Nigerians had been particularly seen within the retail commerce sector and within the diamond mining cities.
The 2 international locations don’t share borders, however it has all the time felt like we did. That we’re separated by Togo and Benin has by no means actually mattered – we really feel like we’re neighbours.
Clearly, one thing to do with the 2 international locations being English-speaking and British colonies within the midst of French-speaking international locations.
Till independence, we had the identical forex and airline, and the identical apex court docket settled all judicial issues.
There have been common sporting competitions between our Achimota College and their Kings Faculty.
I do know of 1 lasting marriage that got here out of these sporting conferences.
Then in 1955, got here the 7-Zero thrashing by Ghana of the Purple Devils, because the Nigerian nationwide soccer group was known as at the moment.
It’s the stuff of legends, and for years, it hung there behind each dialog, each argument, personal or nationwide, between our two international locations.
Then Ghana obtained her independence in March 1957 and our Nigerian cousins obtained theirs in October 1960.
This didn’t really feel proper – for a lot of Nigerians, they had been greater and will have gotten their independence earlier than small Ghana.
They is likely to be greater, however on the time, Ghana felt and was richer than Nigeria – earlier than oil was found.
We saved up the neighbourly rivalries and friendships.
Then got here the Progress Get together authorities’s Aliens Compliance Order of November 1969, which ordered all undocumented aliens to depart Ghana.
Despite the fact that there have been Togolese, Burkinabes, Ivorians, Nigeriens and different West Africans within the nation, Nigerians, largely ethnic Yorubas from the south-western states of Nigeria, shaped nearly all of the international inhabitants in Ghana then.
A few of them had been dwelling right here for years and had been into their second and third generations. It felt just like the train was aimed toward Nigerians and their journeys house weren’t nice.
Then oil got here to Nigeria and as they grew to become wealthy, Ghana’s financial system collapsed and from round 1974, the exodus to Nigeria was on.
College professors, architects, engineers, carpenters, masons, tailors, hairdressers, maidservants and our school rooms had been emptied of all academics from kindergarten, major, secondary and tertiary.
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Should you had been a Nigerian household of any value, you needed to have a Ghanaian nanny, a Ghanaian maidservant, a Ghanaian prepare dinner, a Ghanaian gardener and your kids had been more likely to have a Ghanaian trainer at college or as a personal tutor.
Then in 1983 the Nigerian authorities introduced the expulsion of all undocumented aliens.
Since Ghanaians constituted nearly all of the aliens, it felt like this was aimed toward Ghanaians.
The unofficial title for the train, and for the plastic bag that the determined departing Ghanaians used to hold their possessions, grew to become “Ghana Should Go”.
It was not a nice journey again to Ghana. We had been at our lowest ebb and we had been mocked mercilessly as we shopped for lavatory roll and cooking oil to take house.
The Nigerians would by no means admit it, after all, however it did really feel just like the harm of the Ghanaian 1969 Aliens Compliance Order had been lastly assuaged.
Progressively, we went again to constructing a relationship, as a result of we actually could not do with out one another.
The West African regional organisation, Ecowas, had come into being in 1975 and because the two main English-speaking international locations within the group, we would have liked one another to make issues work.
Issues had been steady for so long as we recognised their “seniority”. That we had been the poor relations was firmly established.
They introduced Ghana to a halt in 1982 by stopping the particular phrases for promoting us oil. We went to beg, and it was restored.
Nigeria’s chief within the 1990s, Basic Sani Abacha, despatched a suitcase filled with $2m, some say $5m, to his Ghanaian counterpart Flt Lt Jerry Rawlings.
Within the early 2000s Ghana’s President John Kufuor went to see Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to inform him the Ghana Police Service had 100 automobiles to its title and Nigeria gave us automobiles for our police.
However we remained a favorite vacation spot for his or her wealthy and well-known, they usually ship their kids to highschool right here in Ghana.
The Black Stars additionally didn’t typically play based on the script and each every now and then, defeated the Tremendous Eagles, as Nigeria’s nationwide soccer group had been now recognized.
The present tensions between the 2 international locations are being blamed on bilateral commerce variations.
There’s a regulation that restricts foreigners from retail commerce – and Ghanaian merchants are not looking for the Nigerian merchants within the markets.
Ghana’s regulation and the present disaster:
Foreigners in Ghana cannot run small retail outlets, however they’ll personal wholesale corporations or different companies through which round $1m (£782,000) has been invested
The regulation is meant to guard smaller native merchants and people operating small enterprise like barbers or magnificence salons, however is just not all the time enforced
Market merchants have typically taken the regulation into their very own palms, which prompted the authorities to do an audit of retail outlets in August and shut some Nigerian-run stalls
Foreigners married to a Ghanaian are exempt from the legal guidelines – as are these in a enterprise partnership with a Ghanaian
Because the commerce ministry attempt to resolve issues, issues have assumed diplomatic dimensions.
The Nigerian federal info minister has spoken some robust phrases.
The Ghana info minister has issued a complete rebuttal.
The Nigerian international minister has been busy on his Twitter account complaining about “the forceful closure of the outlets of Nigerian merchants in Ghana” and ascribing causes for the closure.
Our international minister felt her counterpart had overstepped the mark and summoned the Nigerian excessive commissioner to her workplace to inform her some alternative, straight phrases.
The speaker of our parliament stepped into the fray and invited the speaker of the Nigerian Home of Representatives to Ghana.
He got here with a powerful delegation and after 4 days of conferences he pronounced that “the difficulty at hand is principally a false impression and misinformation”.
There have been tales within the Nigerian media that Nigerians personal many of the buildings within the fancy elements of Ghana’s capital, Accra, and which may properly be true.
They’re speaking concerning the variety of Nigerian banks in Ghana and there are options they’ve sufficient financial muscle to squeeze us the place it hurts.
The Ghana retail merchants may not have 100% assist amongst their compatriots about wanting the Nigerian merchants out of the markets.
As a result of, just like the “Mami Alata” in days of yore, the Nigerian dealer would keep open for one would-be purchaser and never shut up for 3 days to go to a funeral.
We’re all holding our breath and the sensation is possibly we should always be taught to do with out these cousins of ours.
However we’re but to learn the way the tongue learns to do with out the tooth.
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